Pensions has been on the political agenda in recent months and a number of noteworthy changes are coming out of this.
In Germany, new legislation implemented earlier this year to lower the minimum state retirement age to 63 for individuals with 45+ years of contributions into the public retirement program comes as something of a surprise, in particular since not only times of full employment count but also periods of unemployment and parental leave.
The change, at the same time as retirement ages are generally rising from 65 to 67, is due to an election promise of one of the partners in the "Grand Coalition", made no doubt at least partly in response to concerns of employees that retirement is now further away or poorer than they had anticipated. Despite ongoing concerns raised by employers groups as to the increased cost and the disadvantage of losing senior and valuable workers who choose to retire at 63, this proposal has already been implemented. With additional costs of approx. EUR 160bn accumulating until 2030, it remains to be seen whether or not this controversial piece of legislation can be upheld should the economic environment start to deteriorate again.
In China, development continues of the enterprise annuities, the retirement plans that employers in China are permitted to offer. The Ministry of Human Resource and Social Security (MOHRSS) promulgated an “Opinion on Further Improving the Filing Work of Enterprise Annuity Plans” on 16 May 2014. In addition, by 1 August 2014, MOHRSS also completed the annual review of the qualification certificates of enterprise annuity fund management institutions according to its “Circular on Qualification Renewal on Enterprise Annuity Fund Management Institution”. MOHRSS approved 31 institutions' renewals and revoked 1 institution's qualification.
On a policy level, the State Council released “Several Opinions on Accelerating the Development of the Modern Insurance Service Industry” on 10 August 2014. They emphasise the government interest in developing commercial insurance as an important pillar of the overall social security system, and support insurance institutions to expand into enterprise annuity business.
In the UK, following a surprise announcement in the annual budget statement on the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the UK's Finance Minister) in relation to pensions, changes are being made to pensions taxation. The effect of this is that any pension funded on a defined contribution basis may be taken all at once on retirement, or at any time that the individual wishes. The move appears to be motivated by an intention to allow individuals the freedom to choose not to use the fund to provide a pension over time if they wish to invest it in another way (or, as the Pensions Minister said when the changes were announced, use it to buy a Lamborghini). The changes will come into force next April, and include a right of all individual to free "guidance" on the options available for spending or investing their pension fund, once they reach retirement, payable by a levy on financial services firms.